Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Bane of the Ban

This post is to bring to light the problem that many people in all the Third World countries are facing. And it is - restriction of Generic Drugs.

Many of us would remember how it was that in 2007, Novartis challenged the Indian Patent Laws so that they could put a stop to the manufacture of many generic drugs.

India is one place where many of the drugs that aid in saving lives but come at a monstrous price are made for about a tenth of that amount. And this means hope for many patients around the world. But Novartis seems to think otherwise.

Especially in the case of drugs like Imatinib which are used to treat rare cancerous conditions like CML (Chronic Myleoid leukemia) and rare cancers of the stomach and intestine.
And to make matters worse, the Madras High Court has asked many of the Indian Pharmaceuticals to stop manufacturing Imatinib as it would interfere with the TRIPS compliance.

And the reason they say they're stopping the drug manufacture is because it may affect Intellectual rights of the researchers involved. And that one statement alone makes me laugh. What kind of an intellectual rights would be left to exercise if the people who would be benefitted by that are dead?

Thanks to generic drugs, medical costs that normally can run upto $35,000 a year were brought down to less than $3,000 a year. And in many third world countries where a majority of the population survives on less than $2 a day, it can mean life and hope!

A good example of this is the anti-retroviral drugs that is exported to Africa from India.

In 2000, antiretroviral (ARV) treatment cost was estimated at $10,000 per patient annually. But the availability of generic drugs produced mainly in India, allowed costs to plummet to about $70 per patient per year.

If generic drugs are allowed to manufacture, it would only mean that those Big Pharmaceutical companies would lose out on the profit involved(approximately $500 million a year)! And it disgusts me to no ends when one knows that this money is made, gambling with the lives of poor people whose lives can be improved with generic drugs.

Maybe the pharmaceuticals can work out a Memorandum of Understanding between themselves such that drugs are given out cheaper at poorer countries. And Universities and the government will have to improve the research conditions in the fields of pharmaceuticals and health-care. That way, India can boast of her own innovations and can give better drugs at cheaper prices.

In any case, for now, we can only hope that soon India would again begin manufacture of generic drugs or atleast that the big pharmaceutical firms give out drugs at lower prices.

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